EBible Fellowship Sunday Bible Study – 22-FEB-2009


by John McOwen


Today’s study is going to be on a particular topic as is usual with me.  Today we are going to look at a term, “the will,” in particular, “the will of God.”  We are also going to look a little bit at what the will is in the human being but particularly and mostly we are going to focus on “the will of God” this morning. 

We are going to start as usual when we have a topical study when we look at a particular term and this one in the Bible very frequently is used.  We are going to look at the definition first and as is our custom we are going to start with the English definition and what is the will?  Basically it is a noun and in our English definition, contemporary how we use it today in our language, the will, has to do with your desire, or choice, or determination. 

So let us take a look at some examples where it would be something that you desire, your will would be something you desire it would be a choice or determination of one that has authority or power and usually that is how it is used.  We see when we look in the Bible at “the will of God” that phrase, certainly God is one in authority He is one in the position of great power obviously He is the great Potentate.  He is sovereign over everything, so the will has to do with a choice or determination that is made by that individual.  Well that is the English definition today in the word, will.  And usually our English words come from other foreign words where they typically mean very similar if not the same thing. 

We are going to look today at the Greek and in the New Testament how the word “will” is used, how “the will of God” is used throughout and we are going to take some looks at some specific categories of what “the will of God” really is.  Let us begin in the Greek with the word, which is called thelema in the Greek, it is Strong’s #2307, and not surprisingly the definition in the Greek of that word is a determination or choice, so there we see that again coming up a determination or a choice and specifically a purpose or a decree.  So think about now if we are going to study “the will of God” it kind of makes sense that that Greek word as it is used in the Bible very frequently as a noun, thelema, specifically it is someone’s purpose or a decree.  Now the verb form of the word, “will” like, “I will do something,” “I will that they all might be saved,” for instance that is the verb form and that is the Greek word, thelo, so that is where we get the noun, thelema, from that verb thelo, Strong’s #2309.  So those two words if you are interested in studying this later those would be the two words to really focus your attention on today, thelema and thelo, Strong’s #2309 and #2307. 

Let us take a look at the first category.  What exactly is “the will of God?”  How many of you when you are talking amongst friends someone will say such and such about next week, I’ll see you next week and you say, “God willing,” how many of you say that?  Have you ever found yourself saying that?  It is a Biblical term and it is in the Scriptures.  A lot of times we say that to insinuate or to mean that if it is God’s will that I am still alive and I am here or that I have a chance to see you again that will be wonderful but I am not going to just make that assumption blindly and say it is going to happen for sure.  Well what is “the will of God” then?  God willing, I will see you next week, how do I know what “the will of God” is?  Do I know what “the will of God” is?  Do you think I can know “the will of God” in everything in my life?  Let me start with that question, does anyone want to venture an answer to that?  Can I know “the will of God” in everything?  Lester, sometimes you can know it and sometimes you do not know it, sometimes you do not know it and that is correct.  Let us study “the will of God” and see when we can know it, what is it, because when we can know it we are in an advantageous position because then we can seek to do it.  The first one is in Matthew 12:50 let us take a look here and we are going to be looking at the words, thelo or thelema in the Greek, the will, “the will of God.”  Matthew 12:50, Jesus said:

For whosoever shall do the will …

There is the word, the noun, “will”:

… of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

So there we see the term being used:

… the will of my Father which is in heaven, …

Whosoever shall do it, so Jesus said, whoever does it “is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  So if you want to be a brother you want to be in the family of Christ called a Christian, Jesus is saying here, whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, so that is why we want to understand more, if we can from the Bible, what is “the will of God” because Jesus gave us a great promise here that if you do “the will of God” you are my brother, sister, or mother.  So it is a desirous position to be in, to be doing “the will of God.” 

Let us go to another verse and see where “the will of God” is used and see if we can understand from the Scriptures, not just from the Greek word, and what is a determination, a choice, a purpose or a decree of someone in authority, but what is it then that that person, well in this case, God, wants us to do?  Mark 1:40 let us go there and see if we can pick up the word, “will,” in the English.  Mark 1:40-41 and there we read:

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; …

Now there is our verb form, thelo:

… be thou clean.

Because remember that leper said, if you will, you can make me clean.  And in verse 41 what happened there, what did Jesus do? 

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, …

And He said what, what did He say to him, you are right Lester:

… I will;

So therefore, what was the will and Jesus is God in that particular instance, Allasandra what was “the will of God” for that leper?  To cure him, you are right that he would be made clean.  So in that particular instance we see clearly that Jesus said it is My will that you be cured of this leprosy and He cured him on the spot.  So in that case we saw “the will of God” being done and it was to his advantage to his benefit the leper was made whole.  And it was a picture of salvation when a leper is cleaned Jesus said:

… I will; be thou clean.

That is a picture of salvation where his sins are wiped away, washed away and he is now clean and pure no longer has that disease.  Jesus Christ in effect saving that person right there. 

Let us go on in Luke 11:2 let us take a look at that one.  Luke 11:2, Jesus is speaking and He says:

… When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

A little bit more detail now, just a little bit though.  Jesus is teaching us how to pray it is called the “Our Father,” and He says there:

… Thy will be done, …

What is the difference here, now again, how do I know what “the will of God” is?  Anyone want to venture a guess here?  What is the difference, what is a little bit more specific about “the will of God” being prayed for in one’s life?  Whatever it is in Heaven, Jesus is telling us to pray to God the Father, whatever Your will in Heaven is make it be done on earth.  Not what my earthly circumstances are because what did Jesus pray when He was in the garden of Gethsemane?  He desired on earth in the flesh He desired that that cup would pass from Him but was it God’s will in heaven that that be the case?  No, that is why Jesus said:

… nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

So we know that “the will of God” that we want is going to happen anyway emanates from heaven, it is from God it is from heaven it is going to happen regardless of what we see on this earth or want, it may or may not be in accord with my desires and my hope. 

Let us go on Luke 22:42 stay with me on this one, Luke 22:42, and I will read the verse:

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

There is Jesus saying it in the garden of Gethsemane we just said that earlier.  Now in this case what happened?  Was it possible that God would have Christ not go through that?  Well “with God all things are possible” the Bible says, but it was not the will of the Father that He would be spared that agony and that particular tableau as we now have come to understand on Calvary at the Cross. 

Let us go to another one, John 9:31, as we move through the Gospels, John 9:31, what is “the will of God”? 

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

Now there is another advantage, another benefit of doing “the will of God.”  Alex can you pick out what that is in this verse, the one I just read in John 9:31, “if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth”?   If I do “the will of God” what happens? He is going to hear my prayers that is the benefit.  So do you see when I am in “the will of God” when I am doing “the will of God” the Scripture promises us here that in this case God will hear my prayer.  Do you want your prayers to be heard?  I do, I do not want them to fall on deaf ears but the Bible says here:

… God heareth not sinners: …

Not that all of us are not sinners anyway but if we are doing “the will of God” the Bible says:

… him he heareth.

So there is another benefit of understanding “the will of God,” being in “the will of God,” doing “the will of God.”  When we are not in “the will of God” our prayers are going to fall on deaf ears and that is not good, obviously. 

Now one thing for certain regarding “the will of God” in particular now, let us get focused, more specifically, now what is “the will of God”?  We heard about some of the benefits of being in “the will of God,” doing “the will of God” but now what is it exactly to do God’s will?  We saw that it was His will to cleanse the leper.  We know that it was God’s will that Christ went through the agony at the Cross but how about His will for me as a human being living today in contemporary society, what is His will for me today?  Let us take a look and see if you can pick it up in Romans 7:18.  I am going to read it and then I am going to ask you a question so pay attention because I might call on you.  Romans 7:18, in Romans 7 we are going to read here a specific “will of God” in verses 18-19:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

So again in verse 18 we read that in my flesh I know that whatever is in me there is nothing good but to will is present in me.  So the Bible is now talking about the will of the human being and Paul is saying in this chapter in this verse in particular, my will it is in me, it is present in me, but how to do it I do not know.  What is the will that is driving him that he has a hard time doing?  What is the will, Rebecca can you pick that out, anyone, anyone want to help?  Allison?  Obeying God, in other words that is what good means because:

how to perform that which is good I find not.

I find not,” so doing good is doing obedience to God and that is what Paul is saying I have trouble with.  I know it in my head that “the will of God” the will that He has put in me now as a saved man is to do good but I have a hard time doing it, I have difficulty in the flesh doing “the will of God” my own will to actually avoid sin to do that which is good.  Let us go on and read another example, Romans 8:27-28:

And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Back to “good,” Allison already gave us a hint earlier when I asked about, what is the specific will that Paul wanted to do in his flesh?  Obedience to God and we found the word “good” in there.  Now we are saying in verse 28:

… all things work together for good to them that love God, …

What does it mean to love God, what does it mean to love God?  Obedience, Lester you are correct, if you love Me you will keep My Word.  So in other words, if you are obedient, “all things work together for good.”  Even if you have a disease something is wrong with your body and you cannot figure out why, why is it happening to me at this young age?  If it is “the will of God” and you are in obedience to Him you know that “all things work together for good” to those in verse 27 here.  Verse 28:

… who are the called according to his purpose.

It is going to “work together for good” if you are obedient to God no matter what is going on in life so you can take comfort in that.  You can be pleased that God’s will, will be done and it will be good overall no matter what you can or cannot see with the naked eye it is for good. 

Let us go on to Romans 2 now, back a little bit in verse 17, Romans 2:17-18:

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

Now we have a huge, huge not only hint but clue as to finding “the will of God,” finding it, finding it.  Luke, do you have any idea where I can find “the will of God”?  Prayer and in the Bible, I am going pray in accord with hopefully those things that I find right in the Scriptures.  Because what did I read here?

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, …

What is the law?  The Bible and here it says:

And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, …

Why?  How do you know “the things that are more excellent”?  Why do you know it more than your neighbour who may not understand the Bible or read it?  Because you are instructed out of the law that is what that verse said, you are instructed out of the law.  So the law of God, the Bible, is where I find “the will of God” that is where I find it.  If you are struggling with, “I do not know what God’s will is for my life, should I do this, should I do that?”  Whatever the dilemma or decision is in front of you, should I move or should I not move, should I take that job or not take that job, go to this school or that school.  What does the Bible say?  Well it may not say it specifically but as you are reading you are going to begin to understand more and more of the law of God and maybe you will find your answer in that because perhaps one of the choices before you will be much more Godly than the other alternative that you are faced with, much more Scriptural and that is the one you want to do, regardless of what your eyes see and that is what you want to pray for.  You want to pray for the one that is going to please God the most, be in accord with His will, Lord whatever your will is make it happen, in this relationship or whatever the case may be “the will of God.” 

How about Hebrews 10 let us go there quickly.  See another example of “the will of God” in verses 7-8:

Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

Who said that, Natasha, who said that?  Jesus Christ said that, very good.

Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;

Verses 9-10:

Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will …

Here is the key we read “the will” twice already now the third time in verse 10:

… By the which will …

That word “will” is a noun there:

… we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ …

This is really huge, what is being taught in these three or four verses?  Does anyone see it?  Salvation that is correct Gary, but even more specifically how do I get saved, how am I getting saved here, how am I getting right with God.  Christ said in verse 7 and 9, “Lo I come to do thy will,” Gabrielle, did Christ do “the will of God”?  He did, He kept it perfectly.  He is the only one who ever kept it perfectly.  So in verse 10 it says:

By the which will …

Who’s will, who’s will? Isaiah?  God’s will, Jesus was God He is God, by His will we are sanctified not by my free will, not by me obeying God though I am helped when I do that but by God’s will and Christ’s will who was able to successfully go sinless I am sanctified by His will and by the offering of His own body.  So do you see “the will of God” was done perfectly by Jesus Christ stated twice in this chapter and because He did it perfectly by His own will He was able to successfully sanctify me who Paul said in Romans 7, the good that I would I cannot do, I will what I will in my mind in my saved soul is to do right but in the flesh I find the difficulty to do that which is good.  But Christ did it and therefore by His will, not by my free will, but by His will I am sanctified, set apart, saved by God. 

Let us take a look at 1 Thessalonians 4 and move to a different part here in verse 3.  Let us take another look at the will.  1 Thessalonians 4:3:

For this is the will of God, …

We are getting another clear sign post that “this is the will of God” in verse 3:

even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

Now that is a specific command that is clear, “abstain from fornication.”  But before that it says:

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, …

That word “sanctification” means to be set apart.  How am I being set apart?  “The will of God” is that I am separate from others, not that I eschew them that I look down my long nose at them and judge them but it is my sanctification.  How am I set apart by God?  How does God show that He has a different people for Himself?  What do they do differently than others?  They obey, they are doing His commandments and then here it starts with avoiding fornication.  If we are obedient to God, God is showcasing His truth through His people that is different than how the normal person would act who is under the influence and power of the devil and following his own fleshly will all the time or most of the time.  God’s people are set apart by doing His will, by doing the Bible.

Let us go on, 1 Corinthians 7:37 now this is the chapter that talks about being single and being married a little bit of that is in this chapter but it is real encouragement to those who if they are married and your unbelieving spouse wishes to depart you let them depart and in verse 37 of this chapter Paul says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

Nevertheless he that standeth …

This is a big, big clue, get this:

… he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

Aside from the fact of what is being taught about the particular staying single in this instance after Paul had talked about the benefits of being single and the demands of being married but aside from that what we just read here:

… he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, …

What are we being taught there, my own will now not “the will of God” but my will that is in my own personality my body?  Discipline, that is a good word Jim, there is capability, there is capability I cannot just throw my hands in the air and say “Well I am going to sin it is going to happen.”  God has given us stedfastness in heart, power over our will.  Paul struggled in Romans 7 about that, “the good that I would I do not” do, I am not saying you can be good of your own.  Again you are only good and right through Christ doing “the will of God,” “I come to do thy will, O God.”  He is the One that I am sanctified through but that does not relax you from the requirement the demand to be disciplined to obey the Word of God and the only way you are going to be well versed in that is to read it.  You young kids I hope you are reading every single day, us adults too, we have to.  We need it every day we need “our daily bread” every day because if I am not reading it I am going to be more susceptible to succumbing to the pressures of my peer group.  The throngs of the world and my work, the pressure everywhere I am in life, family, wherever it is, that is going to be the difficulty. 

Well, we are going to make another distinction in the Bible about God’s will and His direction for our life and sovereign control over all things.  We understood that a clear definition of “the will of God” is to obey His Word.  If we obey He will hear us.  And a lot of other things are good.  We separate ourselves from others by being obedient God is showcasing His truths through His people.  It is “the will of God” to obey but what about my life, should I do this or should I do that?  Neither choice is sinful they are both morally good, fine, but I have a dilemma on my hands, do I take that job or not take that job.  Here is what we can find in the Bible.  1 John 5:14 when you are struggling with a decision of what you need to do and what you want to make, whatever is before you, 1 John 5:14 says:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, …

So right away before I go any further I am alerted to the fact that I can gain confidence in the decision now:

… that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

So when you are perplexed over what to do the Bible is telling you to have confidence. Should I take this course of action or that?  Should I get that operation or should I not?  Should I pursue this friendship or not?  The Bible says here take this confidence:

… that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

So when I do pray just as Jesus prayed, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” did that cause Him to continue to weep and have great drops of blood as it were dripping from His forehead, after He prayed that the third time what happened?  He had confidence He was strong He awoke the disciples, get ready it is time and that is when Judas came with the soldiers and the Sanhedrin.  See Christ knew that after He had prayed the third time that Your will be done, not mine, He had confidence that if He asked anything “according to the will of God” He hears us and that is when you can pray and you can leave that place of prayer with confidence even though you do not know the answer yet you are confident that God is going to show it to you shortly thereafter.  You can feel good that you are praying in His will because you are asking for His will to be done not what you want, “Lord I really, really want that, please make it happen for me,”  but rather, Your will be done no matter what.  You can walk away from that place of prayer confidently.  1 Corinthians 1:1 another example of this, 1 Corinthians 1:1 “the will of God” and there it says:

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, …

If you are called to go on a mission trip you know if you really feel that you have been asked you have been drawn you have the desire and the door is open to you, Paul said here, “called an apostle of Jesus Christ,” how?  Did he just decide I am going to go to Seminary it is something I like, I am intelligent and I like to talk in front of people so maybe I ought to become a pastor in the old days is that the right way?  Is that the right reason to go into that? 

… called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, …

It has to be God’s will.  When you try to push and press doors, knock them down, kick them down, things typically do not work in your favor.  Is it not the easiest things that happen in life when the doors are open for you that is the doors that you walk through very easily because that is when God’s will is being displayed in your life.  And when things are not working you can start to suspect maybe this is not “the will of God” and I should not do it or I should not go there, or I should not do whatever the case may be whatever is in front of me. 

Let us go to another one before we close with a final example but this is one more about God’s sovereign direction and His control over my life.  And where I go and what I do and what will happen to me.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are going to see “the will of God” there.  1 Thessalonians 5:18:

In every thing give thanks: …

Let us stop there, “In every thing,” in your sickness, in your economic trouble, your job layoff, your broken marriage, “In every thing

In every thing give thanks: …


… for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 

It is His will you may not understand it, it may seem difficult to swallow but if it is God’s will what is happening if you are obedient to Him you know you are in “the will of God.”  The Bible says here, give thanks in every thing no matter what, no matter what because that is God’s will and it is going to work out for His glory, so take confidence and take heart in that, no matter what your dilemma is today.

And finally we know that “the will of God” is exercised most powerfully in the one area of life that none of us have control over which is election to salvation.  That is the ultimate “will of God,” who will be saved, who will have eternal life.  In Romans 9:18 we read there clearly that it is God’s will not mine, not my will.  Romans 9:18 says:

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, …

There is the verb form of our word “will”:

… and whom he will he hardeneth.

So it is God’s will who He has mercy on it is not yours.  Ephesians 1:5, we have two more and we will close.  Ephesians 1:5 it is “the will of God” in election to salvation:

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children …

That means you are in the family of Christ you are a Christian:

… by Jesus Christ to himself, …


… according to the good pleasure of his will,

I cannot figure it out and so what?  It is not for me to figure out.  It is according to the good pleasure of His own will, if I have been predestinated, Halleluiah praise God and if I have not, that is His will so be it.

And the final one in verse 9 of the same chapter and with this we will close:

Having made known unto us …

And this is the way we understand it most:

… the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

Remember what we said the word “will” in the Greek means, a purpose or a decree from a divine potentate and here it says it is “the mystery”:

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure …

Leave it in His hands whatever the issue is even your own salvation it is God’s will and that is what is going to be done like it or not so you might as well pray, Father, Your will be done, not mine.  Amen.